Dr. Anthony Cordesman, from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, offers insights into the current nature of conflict in the 21st century, pointing at new uncertainties in Europe, rising tensions in Asia, and the brutal ongoing conflicts in North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Dr. Cordesman advocates for a revolution in civil-military affairs in order to contend with 21st century conflict and help create conditions for stability.  Dr. Cordesman presented his ideas as part of his keynote address at the PfPC's 17th Annual Conference on 2 July in Vienna.

Published in Guest Speaker Series

A continuing transformation of the post-Soviet space is presently underway as it sheds the last elements of its common Soviet past. New geopolitical and spatial configurations and integration associations are being created, with a new set of players and develop-ment priorities appropriate to today’s international situation and the new challenges.
The ideological dogma of “fraternal allied republics” is being replaced by the prag-matism of national interests and a desire to take a rightful place in the system of world economic ties. The topic of integration and choosing an integration vector is a central theme in the foreign policy of each new independent state.
The project to establish the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) is one of the most im-portant Russian integration initiatives since the breakup of the Soviet Union. The objec-tives and tasks of a new integration group, as well as the makeup of the integration core and potential participants, have now been determined.

The first few months of 2014 brought an unprecedented collapse of the Russian Federa-tion’s image on the world stage, the worst since the end of the Cold War. The events in Ukraine and the reaction to them by a significant number of countries in the interna-tional community, quickly demoted Russia to that group of countries whose foreign policy provokes harsh condemnation. For the first time in decades, international sanc-tions have been put in place against Russia, adopted by a large number of the world’s largest countries, de facto downgrading Russia to the rank of a rogue state; these sanc-tions are intended to exert pressure on the elite, who are responsible for implementing certain foreign policy decisions. For many experts, the events are associated with a new and sudden sea-change in Russia’s foreign policy. However, it appears to us that the cur-rent stage of cooling relations with the West is a logical consequence of the way in which the Russian state was constructed in recent years; in fact, a different scenario could hardly have been anticipated. This article presents the author’s view of the mecha-nisms and logic that shaped Russia’s foreign policy course, which has evolved through several iterations in the last three years. The below analysis could facilitate a fuller un-derstanding of Russian motives in international relations, and help find opportunities and mechanisms for dialogue between Russia and the West.

At the time of writing, the U.S. had its highest-ranking military delegation in over two years, led by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, visiting Beijing. The mission was intended to conduct sensitive bilateral negotiations at the highest level in China, having been received by President Xi Jinping and members of China’s Central Military Commission. This visit took place during a period of heightened tension in northeastern Asia, characterized by nuclear tests and other provocative actions of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), and the escalating territorial dispute between China and Japan over Diaoyu Island. It underscored the importance of Sino-U.S. bilateral relations, and encouraged students of the region to reflect on the strategic significance and policy implications of the U.S. pivot toward the Asia-Pacific, which is the key factor of the strategic context of the region.
The collapse of the Soviet Union led to the appearance of new players in the Central Asian region, the most important of which is China. In the span of some twenty years, China has become a major trade partner and investor in the region. Its trade with nations in the region has grown impressively, from almost nothing in 1991 to more than USD 30 billion in 2011, with China being the region’s second-largest trading partner after Russia. According to the Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, Wen Jiabao, Chinese direct investments in Central Asia by 2012 are estimated at USD 250 billion. China is extensively building oil and gas pipelines, developing a network of transportation links, “as well as expanding its diplomatic and cultural presence in the region.” Scholars and experts on the region have devoted extensive attention to the question of what are the drivers of Chinese policies in Central Asia. There is a consensus among Western as well as Chinese and Central Asian researchers that the region is not the primary focus of China’s foreign policy. China’s relations with the United States is its most important bilateral relationship, and perhaps the primary focus of its foreign policy, along with relations with Japan and other nations in North East Asia, with concerns over stability on the Korean Peninsula taking second place. South East Asia and the wider Asia-Pacific region take third place in order of priority. However, one point that has been highlighted by most studies is that the aspiration to pacify the restive northwestern region of Xinjiang (officially the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region) constitutes the key factor that defines Chinese engagement with and presence in Central Asia. Thus, according to Sébastien Peyrouse, “If Chinese influence in Central Asia has evolved in the course of the two post-Soviet decades, China’s key interests have not changed. The Central Asian zone has strategic value in Beijing’s eyes owing to its relationship with Xinjiang.”

Russia and China have recently displayed aggressive actions that have steadily garnered international concern. The United States, as a country interested in preserving the existing international order, share apprehensions towards potential disruptions that could affect its interests. The intensifying nationalist sentiment of rising powers, their increasing military strength, demonstrable willingness to employ military aggression, and freshly invigorated territorial claims cause defenders of the status quo to worry that war is on the horizon. Will Russia and China make a bold attempt to seize what they claim as theirs? No fewer than two other regional powers give cause for concern. Neighbors of North Korea and Iran warily keep watch for aggressive actions from these “rogue” states. To what extent should threatened neighbors take precautions to protect their territorial integrity in the interests of national security? As seen in some recent signs of weakness from the threatened, a new generation of untested leaders and their respective populations must learn the lessons of “peace through strength” in order to protect themselves from possible aggression. Threatened countries should create, strengthen, and expand military alliances between mutually interested partners, grow military capability by ensuring adequate defense spending, and demonstrate the willingness to take military action against aggressors in order to lessen the threat of attack.

Starting with an assessment of the present challenges, then examining how global powers should shield regional alliances during their formation, and lastly, analyzing the respective failure and success of alliances of World War I and the Cold War, this article proposes a strategy to thwart potentially hostile state-based regional powers. A nation or alliance facing a hostile regional power must match at least one-third of the potential aggressor’s defense spending to discourage an aggressor, but should aim for matching two-thirds. Global powers should foster the formation of regional alliances in order to maintain the status quo.